Differing Signals: How to be who you are despite confusing messages

29th April, 2017   |    By Bethwyn   |    6 min read

I’m quite introverted. I have nothing against extroverts at all – I think it’s so great that they are able to go out and socialise so often, and to have personalities that are often described as ‘go-getters’ or ‘bright sparks’. That’s amazing. But it’s not me. I spend a lot of time either alone or just with a couple of people at a time, and I really enjoy times like that. Socialising takes energy from me, and so I spend a lot of time recovering by doing quiet things.

I am also highly sensitive, so that means I avoid things that make me feel really overwhelmed, like horror/scary movies, and books that fall into the same category. I still watch action films, but I often need an hour or two of quiet reading or some other quiet activity afterwards to calm down.

Figuring me out

When I was in High School, though, I was still figuring this stuff out about myself. And, to a certain extent, I resented that I was so drawn to quiet activities. The reason? My friends wanted to do things like have horror movie nights, or spend lots of time going to parties where there was loud music, drinking, yelling, and all the assorted activities associated with those things. Because I resented the quiet part of me at the time, or kept her hidden as much as I could so I could fit in, I would regularly force myself to go to these things. But I would often be the first person to call my parents to pick me up after a sleepless night (I still don’t understand how people can just go to sleep peacefully after watching two or three horror movies – it baffles my mind) or after a couple of hours of a party. All I wanted by that time was to go home and rest in my room, or read, or watch something a bit friendlier.

These days, however, I accept myself as I am. And I have to say right now – people make that sound easy sometimes. They say ‘you just need to stop forcing yourself to be something you’re not – just accept yourself!’. Okay. Sure. I’ll get right on that. But…how exactly? It’s easy enough to say ‘I accept myself’, and quite another thing to practise it. A couple of years ago, I decided that I would embrace the introverted and sensitive side of myself. The reasons that pushed me towards this are a little convoluted, but basically I realised it was time I stopped forcing myself to go to places that, when it came down to it, I honestly didn’t want to go to.

Part of this acceptance was definitely enjoyable – I gave myself more time to study, read, and to have a friend or two over for tea and snacks and gentle chatting, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of that. I started writing on my blog more, and exploring my love of reading and writing. All excellent things that I still do to this day. But there was also something else that kept popping up that was a little more unpleasant – people were telling me to push myself out of my comfort zone, to take risks, to work for opportunities that I wasn’t sure I wanted. People were telling me I would never be successful or independent if I continued to live the way I was living.

Comfort zone

To start with, I thought they were probably right. I was being encouraged to talk in classes, to talk about subjects and make up opinions that I wasn’t sure I shared. I was still being encouraged by friends to continue on with going to parties and gatherings with old friends that resembled the old parties that I ended up hating – I felt like I had begun to change, but that didn’t change the likes and dislikes of my old friends. For many of them, the fact that I needed more rest and preferred to read a good book most of the time just baffled them. Sometimes they took it as a personal insult, or some sort of eccentricity in my character.

I was being told by the world, it seemed, to start pretending I was an extrovert.

And this doesn’t just happen with introversion/extroversion, it happens with other personality traits and hobbies, too. And I have to say it makes me irritated. Just because I am introverted doesn’t mean I don’t push myself out of my comfort zone every now and then to learn something new or to try out a new opportunity, it just means that I like my comforts and can become overwhelmed by certain things a little easier. Just because someone likes playing video games during their time off doesn’t mean they’re addicted to them, or that they don’t exercise.

And, on the flipside, just because someone is extroverted a lot of the time doesn’t mean they don’t like sitting down with a good book, or skipping a party or two just to have a restful weekend where they recharge a bit.

What does that have to be my box?

The problem is that we tend to identify people and then put them in certain boxes – it’s how we identify with the world. If we treated every single person we met as an individual, we would end up feeling a little overwhelmed with all the personality combinations happening. So I’m not saying that we should stop doing that, I’m just saying that we should take them as rough guidelines rather than something set in stone.

And as for your own personality and being who you are? Recognise that the world is full of contradictions and exceptions. People are going to try and categorise you – if it’s not hurting your chances at getting a job or starting a relationship, then just let them think what they want, and then do what lights you up.

Lately, I’m dealing with the fact that a lot of people have categorised me as a ‘sick person’ and they change the way they behave towards me because of that. I feel like I’ve been getting better over time, but it can be hard not to slip into that old personality of ‘sick’ and jump into victim mode. What do I do? I acknowledge what’s happening, and then I just do what I want anyway. Because sometimes I’m still sick, and sometimes I don’t really mind if people need to categorise me as sick because it helps them to function.

Sometimes being yourself means being a bit confusing to other people (or a lot confusing). That’s okay! Because humans are complex beings. One thing I do know? Someone that is being unfailingly true to themselves is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen.

Keep smiling!


Also check the related topics:  

Self esteem Chronic illness

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